Background: This was my script for the Fall 2019 SCOM 1000 Speech Competition. It was delivered on Friday, November 22, 2019 at Georgia State University. I won fifth place and a $25 gift card in the final round, and I got the chance to “pitch” Toastmasters (without actually selling) to dozens of potential members in the process. 🥰
Mastering the Art of Public Speaking Through Toastmasters
When you hear the term “Toastmasters,” what comes to your mind?
Do you picture a wine-tasting club?
Do you think of someone who gives toasts at weddings or special events?
Do you see someone making perfectly cooked toast?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are correct.
Despite that, today I want to focus on a different aspect of the term “Toastmasters” which is the organization Toastmasters International.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization that helps people like you and me develop public speaking skills and leadership skills. According to toastmasters.org, the organization comprises 358,000 members in over 16,800 clubs in 143 countries.
I have been a member of Toastmasters since 2016, so I have knowledge of and experience with the different facets of this organization.
Today I am going to share with you three components of Toastmasters that help people develop public speaking skills which are its education program, club meetings, and speech contests.
The first component of Toastmasters is its education program called Pathways.
There are currently 11 paths that members can choose from to build specific competencies. For example, one of the paths is called Presentation Mastery. This path focuses on speech writing, speech delivery, and audience interaction to help members build their public speaking skills and prepare to speak professionally. There are five levels in each path that comprise various projects and electives, and once a member completes a path, they are awarded a certificate of proficiency.
At first, Pathways seems like a college curriculum—you complete required and elective courses to earn a piece of paper that symbolizes a certain rank. However, when you look closer, you’ll notice two significant differences. Unlike college, Pathways is a self-paced program, so the member gets to decide the timeframe of completion for a path. Additionally, there is no pass or fail system in Pathways. If a member would like to redo a project or elective, they can even though they don’t need to do so to move to the next step.
Now that you have an understanding of the education program, let’s move on to the second component which is the club meeting.
Club meetings contain two key features that help members develop public speaking skills.
The first feature is the constant applause. When you go to a Toastmasters meeting, you will notice that members clap a lot. This is done to show support to each speaker and to help eliminate any speech anxiety a speaker may experience while on stage. In a 2016 Healthline Media article, Dr. Timothy Legg, a licensed psychologist, states that four out of 10 Americans have glossophobia which is the fear of public speaking. He also states that people who have glossophobia usually fear being judged, embarrassed, or rejected so the constant applause helps to reassure speakers that they are in a safe learning environment.
The second feature is the evaluation. In Toastmasters, the sandwich method is often used to evaluate prepared speakers. With this method, you tell the speaker what they did well on, how they could have improved their speech, and what you liked the best about it. While there are many more feedback methods, the point of each is to enhance the speaker’s abilities and help them achieve their goals.
So far, I have talked about the education program and club meetings. Now I want to talk about the third component which is the speech contest.
Every year, Toastmasters around the world compete in various speech contests.
The most popular one is the International Speech Contest. With this competition, contestants have to present a five-to-seven-minute speech on any topic they choose. There are several rounds in this contest, and whoever wins first place in the final round is named the World Champion of Public Speaking.
Earlier in my speech, I stated that many people have a fear of public speaking. In fact, Dr. Penny Waddell, a speech instructor and the author of Going from Stress to Success, states that when people are asked to list their top ten fears, most will list public speaking before other fears such as heights, snakes, or death. Then why would someone want to put themselves in a position that could exacerbate that fear?
Bill Brown, a Distinguished Toastmaster and speech delivery coach, says it best. In a 2017 Toastmaster article, Brown states that the number one advantage of participating in a contest is growth. The constant practice, feedback, and preparation that goes into a speech contest will not only help a member master their craft, it will also help them conquer their fear of public speaking.
In conclusion, Toastmasters International is an organization that helps people develop public speaking skills through its education program, club meetings, and speech contests.
Fellow students and teachers, if you have never attended a Toastmasters meeting, then I challenge you to visit one before the end of this year.
Only then you will see that there is more to the name “Toastmasters” than wine tasting, toasts, and brown bread.